Skip the feather – Cardinal & Cream

After a year-long absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Union’s annual creative writing workshop and competition returned on Thursday, February 24, with a special reading of the professor’s new book of poetry. English professor and writer-in-residence Bobby C. Rogers.

Early in the morning, 17 students from FAITH Homeschool and Peabody High School arrived at the Union campus in Jackson to watch the interactive experience.

Visiting students were stationed at tables of fiction, creative non-fiction, and poetry workshops led by Union students who guided them through their spontaneous writing process. After the workshop, they attended a creative writing competition awards ceremony which awarded cash prizes to first place winners and bookstore vouchers to second and third place winners.

After the awards ceremony, Rogers hosted a book reading and signing of her new book of poetry Shift work.

“It’s a collection of poems inspired by work and the workers who do it. I hope to honor them. Many of the poems are inspired by family stories that have been passed down,” Rogers said.

During the workshop, Rogers offered students coffee and listened to their freshly written stories, offering personalized advice.

“If you’re not wrong, that means you’re not trying,” Rogers told a student.

“Writing is work. The best kind of work: endless, always surprising, challenging and rewarding in equal measure,” Rogers said.

After the workshop, winners of the high school and college creative writing categories received a certificate, cash prize or voucher, and a congratulatory thumbs up from English teacher Gavin Richardson on stage. The first place winners were: Luke Barnard of FAITH Homeschool who won the High School Poetry and Creative Non-Fiction categories, Kylie Smith of Peabody for Best High School Short Story, Sydney Schmude in the College Poetry and Short Story categories and Eunice Tan for academic creative non-fiction.

Avery Chenault, a freshman double majoring in journalism and cross-cultural studies, moderated a fictional table during the workshop.

“Even though I was supposed to be the one leading the table, I think I learned a lot more from the students than they learned from me,” Chenault said.

“I chose to attend this event because I wanted to hear and read more stories and essays written by people my age,” said FAITH Homeschool freshman Jake Pingen. “I also wanted to hear advice on how I could improve my own writing. I’m happy to say both were accomplished, and I even wish we had more time to write and chat.

The day of “passing the pen” to young writers concluded with a college-level workshop.

Photo by Avery Chenault

Scott R. Banks